The Francophone wine regions are situated in the south-east of the country, and this is where most of the country’s wines are grown and made. Although Berne, Fribourg, Neuchatel, and Vaud play a role that certainly is not to be underestimated, it is principally Valais that is responsible for the best quality and greatest volume. Suisse Romande is virtually synonymous with white Swiss wine from the Chasselas grape which fails to achieve such quality and diversity of taste and styles anywhere else in the world.
The Rhône Vally is one of the oldest wine-producing regions of France. There is evidence of wine production taking place here as long ago as 600 BC.
The wine region of the Rhône Vally starts just south of Vienne, the gateway to the northern Rhône, where the only permitted black grape variety in Syah. The southern Rhône, where the Grenache grape variety takes centre stage, lies south of Montelimar and extends to Avignon. More often than not, the Grenache will be blended with other grapes, such as Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvédre.
Hand harvesting takes place in many of the terraced vineyards in the narrow northern Rhône Vally. Vines are often trained on ingeniuos supports, so that they can withstand the powerful Mistral wind which blows down the valley. Planted on mostly granite and sandstone slils, Syrah produces full-bodied wines, ehich have high tannin content when young and therefore age very well. Côte Rôtie, one of the great wines of France, can mix power and elegance and os often a blend of Syrah and the white grape Viognier.
Hermitage is not only the most rexognised name associated with Syrah, but also an appellation making wines of great depth, concentration and structure which are capable of ageing over decades in bottle. Crozes-Hermitage and St. Joseph are generally lighter, while the very best vineyards from Cronas, with their attractive ‘rustic’ edge, make wines which at best rival those from Hermitage.
The white wines of the northern Rhône are predominantly made from Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. In Condrieu, Viognier is used to make distinctive peach and apricot-flavoured wines, with high alcohol and ample body. Marsanne and Roussanne are often blended together to make the dramatic white wine of Hermitage and other neighbouring appellations.
The world-famous wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are produced in the southern Rhône, where up to thirteen different grape vatieties are permited in the blend. The wines of Gigondas and Vacqueryas often represent great value and possess similar characteristics to the best Chateauneufs, while Tavel is home to the dry and full-bedied rosé. Most generic Côtes du Rhône, along with Côtes du Rhône Villages, come from the Southern Rhône. The latter, which can include the name of the village, such as Viscan, can be another source of well-priced wines.
Clairette de Die is an ancient wine that was known by the Romans (Plinus the Elder 77 BC). At that time the wine was called Aigleucos and was made by the local Celts. They dipped the vats in which the wine had just started to ferment into the ice-cold mountain streams. This brought an early end to the fermentation process so that the bubbles were retained. Up to World War II Clairette was only ever intended to be drunk as a young, still fermenting wine, drawn from the barrel. This situation changed radically in 1950 when the Cave Cooperative Clairette de Die was established. The vineyards were extended and the technique of wine-making was enormously improved. With respect for tradition, a new elan was given to this almost lost traditional local drink. Clairette de Die is made from Muscat and Clairette grapes. These French wine is bottled before the fermentation is complete without any other additives. The carbonic acid gas that is produced during the fermentation is therefore trapped in the bottles as naturally-occurring bubbles. This ancient method is officially known under the name 'Methode Dioise Ancestrale'. Thetaste of this traditionally made Clairette de Die is exceptionally fruity (the Muscat grapes) , gentle, and seductive. The low alcoholic content (7%) makes it a sensual aperitif but it can also be served with chicken or rabbit casserole to which a generous amount of this wine has been added.
The dry (brut) version of this French wine, made exclusively with Clairette grapes and by the Methode Traditionnelle, has been known as Cremant de Die since 1993. The nose is reminiscent of apples and other white and green fruit. When older these are supplemented by suggestions of dried fruit and almonds.
This small area of appellation is found at the foot of the first outcrops of the Alps. Chatillon Gamay, red or rose, is a fruity and yielding wine with a rich bouquet. Drink these French wines young except for the special cuvee that is aged in oak, which can be kept for a time before drinking. Chatillon Aligote is an elegant, fresh dry white wine with a bouquet of wild herbs. It needs to be drunk when young, for instance as an aperitif. Chiitillon Chardonnay is a fuller, more serious white wine, which improves with a year's maturing in the bottle. In addition to these generic wines there are also various domain wines of superb quality. Be quick off the mark though because the demand exceeds the supply.
This French wine is little different from Cotes du Rhone. For some obscure reason it is not included within ,the elite Rhone wines. White, rose, and red wines are produced here on the same types of vine, and similar soils.
The climate is somewhat cooler here than in the Rhone Valley. The wine is therefore less alcoholic than other Rhone wines. Red wine predominates and this is fresh, elegant, and needs to be drunk while still relatively young.
This appellation has only existed for white, rose, and red wine since 1988. The climate here is also cooler which explains a predominance of white wine.
Generally speaking these are quite inexpensive but good quality wines which are becoming increasingly popular. It is expected that this area will develop further in the twenty-first century. Keep an eye on these wines. In terms of taste there is little difference with Rhone wines, except perhaps that Luberon is slightly less full-bodied and structured. Finally, a mention for a good VDQS wine: the Cotes du Vivarais.
Red French wine is mainly made here from the Grenache and Syrah grapes. There is also a local fresh-tasting rose that is particularly pleasing.
Two communes in the Rhone Valley region make high quality sweet desert wines using Muscat grapes. A full -bodied. strong white wine with enormous aromatic potential is made in a natural manner in Beaumes-de-Venise. This white wine both smells and tastes of the Muscat grape, together with peach, apricots, and occasionally also of freshly-picked wild flowers. Drink this wine well chilled 41-42.8°F (5-8°C).
Wine(actually French Wine) has been made for more than 2,000 years between Vienne and Avignon in the valley of the Rhone river. The basis of arguably the best known wine-growing region of France - Cotes du Rhone was established by the Celts, Greeks, and Romans.
This very extensive French wine region with its many different terroirs and micro climates eventually became established as a distinctive entity.
The French wine from the district around Uzes in the department of Gard enjoyed so much fame in the seventeenth century that it was readily imitated. To protect its origins and quality it was officially recognised in 1650 and its area of origin strictly defined. After a further battle lasting more than a century the Appellation Cotes du Rhone Controlee eventually became a fact in 1937. In 1956 the feared winter mistral blew at speeds of more than 62 miles/100 km per hour for three weeks and the thermometer remained stuck at about minus 59°F (15°C). Disastrously this killed all the olive trees but since the vines had survived these conditions the ruined farmers decided to switch to wine-growing.
This was the start of the enormous growth of Cotes du Rhone.
There are at least 23 different varieties of grape permitted to be used in the wine-growing region of Cotes du Rhone plus the Muscat Petit Grain that is used for the naturally sweet Beaumes-de-Venise. In the northern part ofthe Rhone Valley red wine is exclusively made with Syrah but white wines are produced from Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne.
In the south they use some Grenache, Mourvedre, Cinsauit, and Carignan grapes in addition to Syrah for their reds with the Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Bourboulenc for the white French wines.
Rhone wines are divided into four categories: the generic Appellation Cotes du Rhone Regionale, the better Cotes du Rhone Villages, the Crus, and the satellites that are geographically related but have their own identities (Clairette de Die, Cremant de Die, Vins du Diois, Coteaux du Tricastin, Cotes du Ventoux en Costieres de Nimes).
About 80 per cent of the generic Côtes du Rhone produced are very good. Because this category represents such a wide diversity of terroirs, micro climates. and winemakers, the wine has an equally diverse range of aromatic properties.
Generally these are comforting and friendly wines. The red is well structured, full of aroma and taste and very rounded. It can be drunk when still young but can also be left for a while.The rose wines come from the south of the region and they range from raspberry colour to salmon pink. These roses are always fruity and yielding. The white wine is dry, well-balanced, well structured, very aromatic, and thirst-quenching.
There are 77 communes in the southern Rhone Valley which are permitted to use Côtes du Rhone Villages on the label of their wines and of these sixteen may also use the village name on the label.
The stipulations about the planting, care of the vines, yield, and wine-making for these white, rose, and red wines are more rigid. Certain of the best known Côtes du Rhone Villages are Beaumes-deVenise (red and rose), Cairanne (red, rose, and white), Chusclan (red and rose), Laudun (red, rose, and white), Rasteau (red, rose, and white), Rochegude (red, rose, and white),